The internet, we all know, some to very considerable cost, is a mixed blessing. But my experience with Logic Matters at least has been all positive. In particular, in 2012 when I was getting near to finalising the second edition of my Gödel book, it led to a very cheering episode. In late July that year, I posted:
In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” The second edition of my Gödel book was supposed to be off to CUP today for the proof-reading stage. But it will be two or three weeks yet. Still, the end is in sight …
I’ll be sending out the complete draft PDF to a few very kind people who have given me comments on the early chapters that I’ve posted here. But would you like to see the whole draft PDF when it is done in a couple of weeks (and maybe see your name in illuminated letters on the Acknowledgements page for the book)? Then here’s the deal …
Send me an email with the subject line “Proof reading Gödel” … from an academic email address, with a sentence or two about you, promising
- not to pass on the PDF,
- to do a very careful proof-reading for typos, cross-checking of references etc., of an assigned chunk of the book [about 30 pages] as quickly as you can, and definitely within three weeks of getting the PDF,
- to comment on any issues of readability etc. in that chunk.
Of course, comments on more would always be most welcome, even at this late stage! Since I’ll be producing the camera-ready copy for the book, I can make changes up to the wire (which will no doubt be at least a couple of months after I first send in the draft to CUP for their proof reader and production team to take a first look at).
Oh, how can you resist the offer!?
I also posted the same offer on the FOM list. The response to the two postings, as I reported a few days later, was terrific:
I’ve had a wonderful response to the invitation here to proof-read/comment on chunks of Gödel Mark II, enough to ensure that every chapter will be covered at least a couple of times. There was a (very) small bribe attached: but quite a few made friendly offers saying that they’d like to join in as they had enjoyed the first edition. Which is very nice to know! Corrections and suggestions from these new recruits assigned early chapters to review are already beginning to arrive, to add to those from some previous much-valued correspondents, as I finishing tinkering with the last chapters. Just terrific. It’s going to be a very busy few weeks ahead, but the book will end up a lot better for it.
The possibility of this kind of supportive exchange via the internet, and the availability of wonderful resources like mathoverflow.net of math.stackexchange.com, make trying to write a logic book in 2012 so very much more enjoyable (and a much less stressful experience) than even ten years ago. Many thanks to all my virtual logical colleagues out there!
And a couple of weeks later:
This last phase of writing has been a lot more enjoyable and less stressful than it might have been because of the input and warm encouragement I have had from over forty kind people in response to my invitation here and elsewhere to help proof-read chunks of the book. With most of the responses in, that has worked quite wonderfully well. Most chapters have now been looked at by three readers, with different readers bringing a different mix to the party. Some are particularly eagle-eyed at spotting typos, some very helpful about picking up sentences that don’t read well to non-native English speakers, some are good at finding nice ways of rephrasing to avoid possible misunderstanding, some have helpful suggestions about when yet-another-reference or yet-another-footnote would in fact be a good idea, some are stern about ‘that’ vs ‘which’, some have an enviably secure grasp of the True Difference Between a Colon and a Semi-colon, and so it goes. And everyone has evidently put a lot of care into their close-reading.
The proof-readers have been a very mixed bunch, lots of grad students of course, but also senior undergraduates, established professors, and a sprinkling of ‘amateurs’ who have done some logic in the past and are now out of academia. And (perhaps rather useful info for anyone thinking of emulating this exercise in crowd-sourcing the fine-tuning of a logic text), there seems to have been zero correlation between official status and the giving of particularly valuable comments.
I’m really grateful to everyone. All shall have prizes. Or at least, have their name in lights in the book.
And indeed they did have their names in lights. The result wasn’t perfect — see the corrections list! However, as you’ll also see from the list, the residual errors were almost all tiny and not likely to put a reader off their stride. So the experiment certainly worked. But, as I say, more than that, it was a rather cheering experience of friendly helpfulness from a lot of people.